How to embrace the constraints of mobile-first
Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from Brian Johnson, marketing consultant for Audienz.
The year 2014 was a year of technological milestones. In August, the Rosetta spacecraft launched the Philae lander, which became the first probe to ever touch down on a comet's surface.
That year also marked another stratospheric milestone: it was the first time mobile soared past desktop for digital consumption. Just a few months earlier, as the Philae mission underwent its final preparations, smartphones and tablets accounted for 60% of the total U.S. time spent on digital media, according to comScore.
Much like the comet, we saw this coming. Smartphone — and later tablet — usage has steadily climbed each of the last ten years. And perhaps not so coincidentally, 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the first iPhone.
As marketers, we've responded. Digital ads targeting mobile users made up 49% of the total spend in 2015, but an eMarketer study predicts that number will climb to 72% by 2019. We know we must evolve, but are we truly embracing the change?
Optimizing for a mobile campaign can feel limiting. Fitting tried-and-true marketing tactics onto smaller screens and catering a nuanced messaging to an inherently shorter attention span is difficult and frustrating. A "scale-down-for-mobile-because-we-have-to" strategy is not likely to excite brands or, more importantly, their target audience.
What if we welcome the challenges and create true, mobile-first campaigns from the ground up? With the help of some of my favorite space movie quotes, let's look at how employing mobile-first best practices and strategies can help ensure customers don't pass you by.
"I don’t care what anything was designed to do, I care what it can do." – Apollo 13
Mobile-first content requires a straightforward design. By eliminating unnecessary elements that fill large desktop monitors, you can focus on simpler visual cues and clear calls to action (CTAs). It's much more likely that a mobile-friendly design will work for the bigger screens than vice versa. And regardless, desktop users will appreciate your efforts to reduce the complexity.
"Remember: short, controlled bursts" – Aliens
Much like the design, messages need to be concise to capture the short attention of mobile users. According to research from Statistic Brain, attention spans have dropped by one-third since 2000. Is this necessarily a bad thing? What if, like the Rosetta mission, the smaller target forces us to be more creative? Focus on how quick, attention-grabbing hooks can fit into a larger narrative to tell over the course of a campaign. Use your editing prowess to pare the story down to the most compelling essentials. After all, people generally don't complain that a message is too concise.
"Every time something goes wrong, the world forgets why we fly." – The Martian
When the Philae initially landed on the comet, it bounced twice unexpectedly. The probe came to rest in an area shielded from the sun, which limited the effectiveness of the solar powered equipment. In campaigns, things can also take an unexpected turn. Marketers need to continually correct and optimize the course based on data. At times, you can get locked in by the rigid nature of traditional campaigns. Mobile-first strategies are intended to be agile. With more frequent, less costly touchpoints like targeted emails or push notifications, marketers can double down on what's working or quickly re-engage customers when a change is necessary.
"Our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us because our destiny lies above us." – Interstellar
Instead of focusing on the limitations of mobile marketing, turn your attention to the new worlds you can explore. Employ account-based marketing (ABM) techniques and target devices used by a specific customer or industry. Create an app that helps solve customers' problems and hosts free ad space for the brand. Take advantage of the insanely high open rate — 98% — associated with SMS messaging. Companies can implement these mobile tactics in addition to the content they would normally create for a traditional campaign.
By embracing the simplicity, clarity and precision needed for mobile-first campaigns, you can match the pioneering spirit of the Rosetta mission and launch your brand into uncharted territory.